The revamped Boneyard Bar & Grill is bringing indie bands and other artists back to Atlantic City on a regular basis
An A.C. enterprise owned by the Stolfo family for the last three decades was recently given a new name and new frontal signage that reads, in part, “Tourists Welcome, Locals Expected.”
Of course, it’s intended as lighthearted, not brash, but with such an effort being poured into revitalizing an image, providing a place for locals to hang out, hear live music and socialize in a friendly, affordable environment, it’s also somewhat justifiable.
The Boneyard had honed a local music following under its previous name, Croctails Tavern, but things turned south when an outside group was put in charge of the business and mismanaged it, trampling its reputation. The Stolfos reclaimed it, renamed it, and are in the process of trying to restore the establishment’s good name.
“There’s some growing pains right now, but it’s just a matter of getting people to know what you’re doing, what you’re trying to achieve, and developing a loyal following like we had for years,” says Tony Stolfo. “My family has a history here that we’re proud of and we’re going to restore. Part of that’s bringing back live music. I try to make it as easy as possible [for musicians]. I’ve got guitar amps, a drum kit, mikes, a full PA system. They’re welcome to use my equipment or bring their own.”
On a recent Sunday night, several bands brought in by Jerry Ryan of Elephant Talk-Indie Music magazine (among them Felix Hunger, Rachel Schain, the Rhodes, Juggernaut Drunk, Galt Line, Rick Reinhart and the Cast of Characters) performed 45-minute sets starting at 7:30pm. Stolfo says he hopes to make live music a regular nightly attraction in the near future.
“Tony’s a cool guy who understands the need to establish a music scene here, or a culture that doesn’t revolve around the casinos,” says Jason Forslund who, with Dan Fithian, comprise a promotional team that on Dec. 16 is starting “FML Thursdays” at the Boneyard. The plan is to bring in indie bands, DJs, special events and artists, and gradually grow a following.
“We’re living in a rough time,” says Forslund. “I can’t afford to go out in A.C. any more, and I have a pretty decent job and I’m educated. There are people who are proud to live here, who want to stay here and spend their money here without having to go to Philly every weekend to find a lively pop-culture scene.
“We’re trying to offer a good substitution that’s rich in culture and in life. We’re in touch with youth culture and we want to serve them.”
As a music promoter, Forslund says Stolfo is more flexible than the typical venue owner. Along with some charity events, there are also some eccentric ideas being floated like having a graffiti artist paint the building’s exterior, spoofing what’s known as VIP bottle service in the high-end nightclubs by doing a knock-off with 40-ounce malt liquors, and running a DJ-staffed 3-9am “drunk breakfast” that caters to the crowds coming out of the nightclubs.
“Most bar/tavern owners are very protective of their space, which is totally understandable, but Tony was really cool with us and with others putting on the shows,” says Forslund, 24. “He’s doing something that’s not too common, which is letting the promoters and bands keep the door. In other words, you bring in your band and your own crowd and he lets the band and the promoter keep whatever you charge at the door, which is really unheard of; a lot of bar/club owners won’t do that.
“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of youth pride in this area, but it makes me proud that there’s a place that would give that kind of freedom to young people interested in playing music. There’s a scene here, it’s just untapped.”
Boneyard Bar & Grill
Where: 20 S. Virginia Ave. (between Atlantic and Pacific aves.)
On the Web: boneyardbar.com
“As well as being one of most talented bands I’ve ever seen, what makes [Out of the Beardspace] really great is their commitment to making this world a better place. They’re involved in countless grassroots organizations like this one, and have inspired me to do everything humanly possible to give back in every way.”
All money raised through a $10 cover charge will be divided and dispersed among two non-profit organizations — the Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Center and the Ocean City Repertory Theatre — each of which was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
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Justin Pierce opted to strike out on his own and help find places for local, original-material producing musicians to hone their craft in live-audience settings. In doing so, the Port Republic resident recently launched the fledgling promotional/booking company JP Entertainment, which will host its inaugural event on Friday night, Dec. 2, at Le Grand Fromage in Atlantic City.
The truth is, our region has been a live-music mecca since the early 1900s, when cats like Eubie Blake and Eddie Cantor hung out for summers and performed at local clubs. Decades later the Atlantic City jazz scene was as hot as they come, with internationally heralded performers from Billy Eckstine and Louis Armstrong playing residencies at some of the hottest clubs on the East Coast, namely the venues on Atlantic City’s fabled Kentucky Avenue — all of them are gone now — including the Club Harlem.
The guide is destined to soon become the place for local booking agents and promoters to check out local bands and listen to songs and watch video.
"The Local Music Guide is a great idea. I believe it’s very important for the musicians to work together and support each other, rather than just protect their own ‘piece of the pie.’ The South Jersey music scene seems to be growing stronger and stronger, and hopefully this guide will make it easier for all involved — clubs, fans and musicians alike — to continue that growth and bring back the ‘glory days’ once more.”